Nature of God

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God as Timeless

  • Timeless = exists outside of time, God has no beginning and end
  • "who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy" (Isaiah)
  • Influenced by Classical Philosophy/ Plato/ Boethius
  • Boethius: God does not experience past, present or future; all time is present to him at once
  • Aquinas: God's existence is unending, time and changing are inseperable and as God cannot change, He cannot be in time, "eternity exists as a simultaneous whole and time does not"
  • Anselm: God is eternal because nothing can contain God
  • Nicholas Wolterstorff: "freed from the ******* of temporality"
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Criticisms of a Timeless God

  • Anthony Kenny: notion of time being simultaneously present to God is incoherent
  • Swinburne: he could not "make much sense" of this
  • How can God be personal and act in creation? e.g. responding to prayers
  • Love involves a two way process and ability to respond
  • How can an eternal God respond to people's prayers?
  • Boethius ends up defining a God that is intrinsically different from the God of Classical Theism
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God as Everlasting

  • Everlasting = exists within time but still without end, not a lessening of power, supports a present and active God answering prayers/ performing miracles
  • Swinburne: "God knows the events of AD 1995 unless it means that he exists in 1995 and knows in 1995 what is happening... hence I prefer that understanding of God being eternal as his being everlasting rather than as his being timeless"
  • Wolterstorff: the only way to understand some of God's actions in the Bible is to see them as responses to humans' free choices. We cannot criticise an everlasting God for not knowing the events of the future because God's omniscience only includes knowing what has happened as the future does not yet exist
  • Supports God's omnibenevolence
  • Supports God being personal
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Criticisms of an Everlasting God

  • If God doesn't know the future can He reallt be omniscient?
  • If time = change then can God still be immutable?
  • Is God limited by time?
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God's Omnipotence

  • Rene Descartes: God can do anything, He can change the fundamental laws of physical
  • J.L. Mackie: logical impossibilities do not exist
  • Aquinas: "whatever involves a contradiction is not held by omnipotence, for it just cannot possibly make sense of being possible" = omnipotence is an aspect of God's nature, so things 'beyond His power' are actually not in His nature e.g. sinning
  • Anselm: God cannot sin as this shows a lack of control = lacks power
  • Anthony Kenny: omnipotence is best understood as a statement of God's power
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God's Omniscience

  • Anselm: "you are supremely perceptive"
  • Omniscience= perfection of God; unlimited knowledge of the past, present and future, God is timeless
  • Limited omnipotence= limited to what is logically possible; God chooses to limit what He knows in order for us to have free will, God is everlasting
  • Calvin: God has Divine Foreknowledge; He has predestined some people to be saved and some to be damned
  • Boethius: how can God have Divine Foreknowledge and humans beings have free will? God must be eternal
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  • 'The Consolations of Philosophy'= a discussion with Lady Philosophy
  • God does not have Divine Foreknowledge
  • God does not know past, present and future
  • God just knows everything including all history in a 'single glance'
  • God is justified in rewarding and punishing us as we are totally free to decide our actions
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  • "God sees all things together and not successively" = God sees everything but not linear, all history is viewed as a whole
  • God has a 'bird eye' view on the whole of history that is theocentric (from God's perspective)
  • God does not interfere with our freewill
  • God signifies 'being/existing'
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